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Over-Tested Generation: Youth and Standardized-State Testing in a Racialized Educational Context

Education and Youth Today

ISBN: 978-1-78635-046-6, eISBN: 978-1-78635-045-9

Publication date: 26 July 2016



The No Child Left Behind Act (2002) and Race to the Top (2009) led to the highest rate of standardized-state testing in the history of the United States of America. As a result, the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015) aims to reevaluate standardized-state testing. Previous research has assessed its impact on schools, educators, and students; yet, youth’s voices are almost absent. Therefore, this qualitative analysis examines how youth of color perceive and experience standardized-state testing.


Seventy-three youth participated in a semistructured interview during the summer of 2015. The sample consists of 34 girls and 39 boys, 13–18 years of age, of African American, Latino/a, Jamaican American, multiracial/ethnic, and other descent. It includes 6–12th graders who attended 61 inter-district and intra-district schools during the 2014–2015 academic year in a Northeastern metropolitan area in the United States that is undergoing a racial/ethnic integration reform.


Youth experienced testing overload under conflicting adult authorities and within an academically stratified peer culture on an ever-shifting policy terrain. While the parent-adult authority remained in the periphery, the state-adult authority intrusively interrupted the teacher-student power dynamics and the disempowered teacher-adult authority held youth accountable through the “attentiveness” rhetoric. However, youth’s perspectives and lived experiences varied across grade levels, school modalities, and school-geographical locations.


In this adult-dominated society, the market approach to education reform ultimately placed the burden of teacher and school evaluation on youth. Most importantly, youth received variegated messages from their conflicting adult authorities that threatened their academic journeys.




We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the participating youth for granting us access to their state-testing rooms. Moreover, we will be forever grateful to the youth centers, student researchers, IT personnel, librarians, peer reviewers, and editors for making this chapter possible. This research was funded by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, and Connecticut College’s Career Enhancing Life Skills Program, Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, R.F. Johnson Faculty Development Fund, Judith Tindal Opatrny’72 Junior Faculty Fund, Margaret Sheridan’67 Research Initiative Fund, the Research Matters Faculty Grant, the Tempel Institute, and the Susan Eckert Lynch’62 Faculty Research Fund. Gracias.


Campos-Holland, A., Hall, G. and Pol, G. (2016), "Over-Tested Generation: Youth and Standardized-State Testing in a Racialized Educational Context", Education and Youth Today (Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, Vol. 20), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 187-249.



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